Storm Tips: Staffers attended conference sponsored by controversial anti-gay activist
A handful of GOP congressional staffers attended a conference earlier this month organized in part by an evangelical leader who has faced controversy based on statements that he doesn't believe it is wrong to stone gay people to death.
The conference was sponsored by Faith and Law, a congressional staffer organization, as well as a group called Fieldstead and Co. - also known as the Fieldstead Institute. On its web site, Fieldstead and Co. describes its mission as managing "various philanthropic programs as part of a Christian worldview."
The company's reclusive founder is Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr., a multimillionaire philanthropist, mass transit enthusiast and hybrid car owner. In 2005, Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. He has donated millions of dollars to organizations that promote his causes, such as seeking to disprove the theory of evolution and maintaining that climate change is not caused by humans.
For three decades, Ahmanson sat on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, which advocates death by stoning for gays and other biblical lawbreakers. He has since resigned from that organization and has told the Orange County Register that he no longer believes stoning homosexuals is "essential," although he noted that he would be hard-pressed to agree that it was "inherently immoral" for other countries to do so.
His wife, Roberta Ahmanson, who usually acts as his spokesperson, told Salon magazine that they advocate making "the last seven of the Ten Commandments" into nationwide law.
Howard Ahmanson has been active in politics, and despite having registered as a Democrat, frequently donates to conservative candidates for office across the country. Some candidates, such as Gov. Linda Lingle (R-HI) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), have returned or refused to accept donations from Ahmanson because of his views.
Nonetheless, Ahmanson continues his involvement in political issues, in part by sponsoring conferences such as this one for congressional staffers. The conference, held Sept. 4-6 on Maryland's eastern shore, was on issues of Christian faith and public policy. Dozens of staffers were invited, and three so far have filed paperwork indicating they attended. Since congressional travelers have 15 days to file their paperwork, it's possible that other disclosures will still be filed.
Fieldstead and Co. has sponsored at least two other such trips, both attended exclusively by staffers to conservative Republicans. The details of those events, and who participated in them, are found here.
This post is part of our occasional series "Storm Tips," in which we highlight interesting items we stumble across in our raw records.